All it takes is 15 minutes. Pet a dog for that small amount of time and, per a University of Missouri study, your brain releases a dose of feel-good endorphins that significantly lower your levels of the stress-hormone cortisol. Just generally being around a dog helps you unwind and destress. What’s more, having a dog makes you more likely to exercise, helps reduce allergies, and teaches your kids to be more social. Plus, they tire your children out when all you want to do is take a load off.
Dogs make great members of the family. But if you’re thinking about getting one (or have finally caved after your kids bugged you for the thousandth time) you need to consider what breeds are best around small children. No small task, considering there are several hundred breeds out there. Gina DiNardo, Vice President of the American Kennel Club, offered up 7 picks for dogs that mesh well with small children. Each is excellent around kids and comes with specific benefits for your family. Now all you have to do is get it housebroken. But you did that already with some members of the family, so it shouldn’t be that hard.
Best For Active Families: Labrador Retriever
The most popular dog in America for 25 years in a row, the Lab is number one for a reason, says DiNardo. This medium-sized classic thrives in group settings and loves to get to know the whole family. Their famous “kind eyes” make kids feel comfortable right away, and they’re always, always ready to play. Labs are one of the most active breeds and need a lot of exercise. Make sure you have the backyard or dog-walking acumen necessary to keep them moving.
Best For Families Who Need A Patient Pet: Golden Retriever
Like Labs, Goldens are a well-known family favorite beloved for their personalities. Retrievers have a natural affinity for children and a trusting, gentle disposition. They were bred to spend hours waiting for ducks in a hunting blind, so they’re some of the most patient pups around. They’re also one of the most intelligent breeds, and can be trained to perform all sorts of tricks and obedience commands. DiNardi says Goldens don’t require quite as much exercise as Labs but they do shed more. Get a good vacuum with it.
Best For Shy Children: Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
DiNardo says this small, gentle breed is a hit with shy children. Cavaliers are eager to please, but are totally happy cuddling up and dozing on the couch. They’re famous for treating every person they meet as a friend, including bigger dogs and babies. One of the most adoptable dog breeds, Cavaliers are as suited to long walks in the country as they are to a comfortable apartment lifestyle.
Best For Families Who Want A “Nanny Dog”: Newfoundland
Don’t be intimidated by their hulking size: Newfies are beloved for their sweet, devoted nature. They have an instinctive drive to look after children, and are one of the breeds best suited to be a “nanny dog.” In fact, in the original Peter Pan, Nana was a Newfoundland. The downside? DiNardi warns that Newfies are prolific shedders and champion droolers. If you’re a neat-freak, it’s not the breed for you.
Best For Big Families: Boxer
According to DiNardi, the square-jawed Boxer has a “deep desire for human affection, especially from children.” They’re dedicated to their pack and like to have plenty of people nearby. Boxers are very patient dogs, which comes in handy when a toddler feels like poking one in the face for 5 minutes straight. A working dog, boxers need to stay active, so ideally the dog and your kid can tire each other out.
Best For Kids Who Want Lots Of Attention: Pug
Kids go crazy for their funny faces, but pugs have a temperament that gels well with family life. They’re rarely aggressive, exceedingly loyal, and very fond of children. Despite their small size, Pugs have strong bodies and love to roughhouse. Pugs owners often call them shadows thanks to their clingy, attention-craving behavior. Because of their breeding, pugs are subject to a host of respiratory and orthopedic issues, and DiNardi advises potential owners to do their research.
Best For Busy Families: Bulldog
Although they were originally bred to actually fight bulls in Tudor England, Bulldogs are now known as one of the calmest breeds around. Centuries of mellowing have turned it into a kid favorite. Bulldogs latch onto children and form strong bonds, following them around the house. The 4th most popular breed in America is low maintenance and a great choice for families who have a hectic, busy household.